For most state employees, tomorrow (Friday, January 18, 2019) is a paid holiday. It’s Lee-Jackson Day.
This Virginia holiday can be traced back to 1889, when it commemorated the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. Beginning in 1904, it was also used to celebrate the birthday of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and its name became Lee-Jackson Day.
Meanwhile, in 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to create a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National observance began in 1986. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, January 21.
Concerned about the cost of another paid holiday, Virginia’s legislature decided to combine the two holidays. Beginning in 1983, Virginians celebrated Lee-Jackson-King Day. This ironic combination of holidays was reversed in 2000, with Lee-Jackson Day moved to the Friday before Martin Luther King Day.
For many years, Virginia’s banks were closed on Lee-Jackson Day, as were the state ABC stores. But do not be alarmed. The banks will be open tomorrow, and the ABC stores now open on both Lee-Jackson Day and Martin Luther King Day.
There are no known Lee-Jackson Day celebrations in Danville. However, it is a major holiday Lexington – the home of Washington and Lee University (the former Liberty Hall Academy). During the Civil War, students there formed the Liberty Hall Volunteers as part of the Stonewall Brigade under General Jackson.
Other former Confederate states have similar holidays. Alabama and Mississippi celebrate Confederate Memorial Day in April. South Carolina’s observance is in May and Arkansas in October. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day on January 17. In some years, that falls on the same Monday as Martin Luther King Day.